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Wartime FM calls for tangible measures to counter Geneva threat

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‘How come those who voted for Fonseka still push for an int’l war crime probe?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama (2007-2010) yesterday (17) said that those who had been tainted by their association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were seeking the cooperation of external and internal elements to undermine the democratically elected government.

The former minister alleged that a coordinated campaign was underway ahead of the scheduled 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Bogollagama said that the recent high profile intervention made by the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and Tamil Makkal Tesiya Kootani (TMTK) backed by several civil society groups for international accountability mechanisms to probe Sri Lanka should be properly countered.

R. Sampanthan (TNA), Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (TNPF) and retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran (TMTK) and eight other parties, including the Bishop of Trincomalee signed a petition dated January 15, 2021 addressed to 47-member states of the UNHRC called for a new resolution with or without Sri Lanka’s consent. They requested UNHRC members to involve other organs of the UN including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly to take appropriate action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other applicable and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Having failed to achieve Eelam through terrorism and conventional military means, those who still believed in the division of the country on ethnic lines were seeking international intervention, the former Minister said, urging those hell-bent on foreign intervention not to play politics with accountability issue.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Responding to another query, the former minister said that the TNA had quite conveniently forgotten how the LTTE forced the political grouping to recognize Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil people. The LTTE exploited that tag to the hilt until the Army put a bullet through the head of the Tiger supremo on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Bogollagama said. The former Minister emphasized the pivotal importance of Sri Lanka taking stock of the situation without further delay because a new resolution seemed inevitable.

Bogollagama said that Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Oct 2017 in the House of Lords could be part of Sri Lanka’s overall defence along with certain revelations made by Wikileaks since 2011. Continuing efforts to fault Sri Lanka over genocide of Tamil people should be dealt with for once and for all, the minister said, pointing out that both TNPF and TMTK reiterated genocide allegations at the onset of the current parliamentary sessions.

Bogollagama also made reference to wartime US Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith contradicting in public during an international seminar in Colombo war crimes accusations, two years after the conclusion of the war.

The former minister said that Tamil parties’ rhetoric shouldn’t be taken lightly. Asked whether he endorsed the efforts made by the SLPP to counter the threat, the ex-lawmaker said that the joint intervention made by the British-French governments in late April 2009 to halt the military offensive against the LTTE on the Vanni east front indicated the level of Western interest in the issue at hand. “I don’t have to remind you what the then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s comment on his government’s obsession with the war against the LTTE,” the former MP said, referring to a leaked classified US diplomatic cable originating from their mission in London at the height of the war here.

The former minister said that for the first time one-time LTTE mouthpiece, the TNA had the backing of two more political parties based in the North. Bogollagama pointed out though Wigneswaran quit the TNA in spite of having entered active politics through the outfit in 2013, the one-time Northern Province Chief Minister was working with the TNA and Gajandrakumar Ponnambalam’s TNPF on a common agenda. Geneva was going to be a big challenge, Bogollagama said, adding Western powers’ real interests and motives were wider issues than accountability in Sri Lanka.

Bogollagama said that the TNA owed an explanation as regards its relationship with the LTTE?. Having recognized Prabhakaran in late 2001 as the sole representative of Tamil people, the TNA, on behalf of the LTTE ordered Tamils to boycott the 2005 presidential election, Bogollagama said. The TNA represented the LTTE’s interests until the very end, Bogollagama said, recollecting how the European Union in the aftermath of 2004 parliamentary election faulted the TNA for winning 22 seats in the Northern and Eastern Provinces with the LTTE stuffing ballot boxes on its behalf.

Bogollagama said war crimes accusations collapsed five years before the previous yahapalana administration co-sponsored an accountability resolution in Geneva. How could the TNA explain backing war winning Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s candidature at the 2010 presidential poll and the Northern and Eastern districts, including Digamadulla voting for him overwhelmingly though he lost the election by a staggering 1.8 mn votes. The TNA should have been challenged both in and outside parliament for its stand on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations, having backed the very man who executed the war.

Bogollagama pointed out how high profile accusations made by the then Northern Province  Chief  Minister Wigneswaran as regards poisoning of LTTE cadres undergoing rehabilitation (Aug 2016) and the Army being responsible for Mannar mass graves (2019) proved nothing but propaganda.

Bogollagama insisted that all evidence should be placed on the table, studied vis-a-vis 2015 Geneva resolution  co-sponsored by the then government and remedial measures taken.  It would be pertinent to mention that the government went ahead with co-sponsorship in spite of the then Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha rejecting the draft proposal, the former Foreign Minister said.



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Govt. will implement PCoI recommendations, but won’t ban BBS

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (8) ruled out the possibility of proscribing the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) as recommended by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that probed the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

Addressing the regular weekly SLPP briefing at the Waters Edge, Prof. Peiris, who is also the minister of education, emphasized that the particular recommendation wasn’t acceptable to the government. He described it as a difficult recommendation.

Declaring that the proscription of the BBS wouldn’t do any good, Prof. Peiris said implementation of PCoI recommendations would be the prerogative of the government.

Prof. Peiris assured that the government would implement the remaining recommendations.

Chairman of the PCoI, Supreme Court judge Janak de Silva handed over its report to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Feb 1, 2021. Other members of the PCoI were Court of Appeal judge Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne, retired Supreme Court judges Nihal Sunil Rajapaksha and A. L. Bandula Kumara Atapattu and former Secretary to the Ministry of Justice W.M.M.R. Adhikari. H. M. P. Buwaneka Herath functioned as Secretary to the PCoI.

Prof. Peiris said that the Opposition could raise any issue related to the Easter Sunday carnage during the three-day debate scheduled to commence tomorrow (10).

Minister Peiris that the incumbent government would ensure a no holds barred investigation into suicide bombing spree that claimed the lives of 270 and wounded 500 others.

Alleging that the majority of those who had been severely critical of the PCoI hadn’t perused it, Prof. Peiris said that a careful examination of the dossier revealed some critically important factors pertaining to the attacks blamed on the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ).

 Prof. Peiris said that many inquired about the alleged involvement of a foreign hand in the NTJ terror project. Against the backdrop of the release of PCoI report many condemned the report claiming it didn’t address contentious issues such as possible foreign hand in the Easter Sunday carnage, Prof. Peiris said.

The SLPP Chairman said that the PCoI had made a revelation about a certain foreign organization. He declined to name the organization.

However, inquiries made by The Island revealed that FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organization) aka the Gulen Movement

had been named by the PCoI. During PCoI proceedings, it transpired how the previous yahapalana administration had received specific information from Turkey but it chose to ignore the dire warnings. Turkey blamed July 2016 coup attempt on FETO and its US based leader Gulen.

Referring to January 2019 explosives recovery at Wanathavilluwa, Prof. Peiris said that the PCoI emphasized the need to further investigate that particular detection. The PCoI also pointed out how further interrogation of three persons already in custody in connection with the Easter Sunday carnage could help investigators to establish the truth.

Dismissing accusations that the PCoI hadn’t served any useful purpose, Prof. Peiris pointed out that some persons arrested in Qatar were now in Australia. Prof. Peiris said that the attention of the Australian authorities were on them. The Education Minister refrained from going to further details.

Quoting the PCoI, Prof. Peiris also referred to a person, whom he called a leader of an extremist organization responsible for making an alleged attempt to cause massive death and destruction in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. Prof. Peiris said that the PCoI had recommended punitive measures against this person in terms of the relevant law.

Commenting on specific recommendations issued in respect of the Easter Sunday carnage, Prof. Peiris said that the police, CID, TID, AG and CIABOC had received those instructions. The PCoI had created a solid framework for relevant authorities to take tangible measures.

Prof. Peiris declined to comment on queries based on various assumptions meant to divert public attention. He emphasized that whatever the breakaway UNP faction, the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said the public however was aware they were all part of that utterly pathetic government that failed to thwart the NTJ in spite of having advanced intelligence.

Prof. Peiris called Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa’s vow to hang all those responsible as nothing but a joke.

Responding to another query, Prof. Peiris said that the previous regime caused mayhem by lifting restrictions in place to prevent undesirable persons entering the country. During Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tenure as Secretary Defence visas were denied to the majority of those who sought opportunity to address religious issues. The yahapalana lot simply did away with restrictions and essentially failed to take precautions fearing what Prof. Peiris called political repercussions.

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Only reason for vesting Muthurajawela under the UDA

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By Ifham Nizam

The government had decided to conserve the Muthurajawela wetland under the Urban Development Authority as the Wildlife Ministry and Department could not afford to pay for the immediate acquisition of some of the land, Urban Development State Minister Nalaka Godahewa said.

Godahewa said that his Ministry had both institutions with the relevant technology and capability to conserve the ecosystem.

He said Muthurajawela would be handed over to the Ministry of Wildlife after being conserved as a Ramsar wetland.

He said so participating at the Inter-ministerial discussion on sustainable environment development. Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was also present.

Muthurajawela, which encompassed 3,064 hectares in 1990, had now shrunk to 1,200 hectares due to encroachment, the Minister said.

Minister Godahewa added that although a private company had acquired part of the wetland for some projects, steps would be taken to acquire the entire extent and make it part of the Muthurajawela Wetland Zone.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that although the private company had planned to set up golf courses, hotels and even a helicopter yard, none of them would be allowed.

The company posed a danger to the Muthurajawela wetland, the Minister said, adding that the 700 acres acquired by it would be taken back. Therefore, no new constructions would be allowed to be carried out in the Muthurajawela wetland and it was the position of the government to conserve what remained of the eco-sensitive region and pass it on to the next generation, he said.

The Ministers emphasised that the city of Colombo was named as the first Ramsar Wetland City in the world due to the measures taken by the President during his tenure as the Defence Secretary to develop the city of Colombo under a green city concept.

The inter-ministerial coordination programme was launched last week at the Ministry of Environment to address the issues related to the environment.

A Cabinet memorandum submitted by the Minister of Environment Amaraweera to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee on monitoring environmental issues in January was approved by the Cabinet.

The inter-ministerial coordination programme involves the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, the Ministry of Water Supply, Wildlife Conservation, the construction of elephant fences and ditches. Relevant Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Secretaries to the Ministries Dr. Anil Jasinghe and Bandula Harischandra also participated. Among the issues discussed at the meeting were the recent media reports of deforestation, especially the Muthurajawela Wetland Conservation Programme.

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Ranil predicts worst economic shocks by year end

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UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the government was printing money like printing newspapers.

Speaking at a meeting held at Borella on Sunday with the youth of the Green Blood organisation, affiliated to the party, Wickremesinghe said that managing the economy was not an easy task and it would take a decade for the Sri Lankan economy to bounce back.

The former PM said that the present government had printed three times the amount of money printed during the past 10 years during the tenure of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 and of UNP rule in 2015.

Wickremesinghe said that the government had slashed taxes and reduced the country’s income by giving concessions to companies and big businesses; the general public did not get the benefit of such tax cuts. “The country’s revenue had decreased even before the arrival of Covid,” he said.

“The government prints money like printing newspapers because it has no revenue. We saved $ 7.5 billion as reserves. Now, it is down to $ 4.5 billion. We built the economy despite criticism. We allocated money for health.

They opposed when we planned to give tabs to students. If tabs had been given, children would have benefited during the pandemic,” the UNP leader said.

The former Prime Minister said that no development was taking place and investors were leaving the country. He added that the government had requested a loan of US $ 2 billion from India and China but it would be disappointed.

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